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Author Topic: Ewzzy's FF History  (Read 2221 times)

Offline Ewzzy

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Ewzzy's FF History
« on: July 05, 2021, 02:33:39 PM »
You recently saw my research into Irrational Games' cancelled title The Lost. It's just the first of many Freedom Force history subjects I've been diving into. With the 20th anniversary coming up there's a lot of history to dive into.

Let's start today checking out the PC Gamer June 2002 issue!

I haven't been able to score a copy or scan of the magazine but I do have the demo disc and it's a treat.


There are a lot of Freedom Force demo discs out there, but this one has exclusive skins.

I'd love to know the story of how community member Darkjared got this gig. What a wild assignment. Let's take a look at what he put together:

DJ's work is recognizable at a glance if you recognize his base skin. The hulking skin's chin really gives it away. Looking at these today, obviously the biggest question is "what the heck is with that... thing?" Turns out that's the "Coconut Monkey" a very 2000s lol-random mascot of PC Gamer's that they'd include as an easter egg on the demo disc wherever they could.

If you'd like to download the Demo Disc you can do so here from Archive.org:
https://archive.org/details/pc-gamer-june-2002

The exclusive skins can be downloaded directly here:
https://archive.org/download/pc-gamer-june-2002/PC%20Gamer%20-%20Exclusive%20FF%20Skins.zip

9 skins in a 2MB zip file. Remember when we'd fret about every kilobyte of storage? Wild.

The back of the disc says "we've also tossed in some of our favorites skins from the web!" What skins were those? They're all by the patron saint of skinning, The Gryphon. Anubis, Cleo, Heptet, Horus, Scarab, The Mummy are on the disc.

Finally, on the disc is a readme with a note from the fine folks of The Comic Skin Network:
Quote
For more excellent skins of original and well established comic/TV/movie heroes please visit us at The Comic Skin Network.  We currently make skins for The Sims, Freedom Force and Unreal Tournament.  You'll find more than 1500 well known and obscure characters to choose on our network of skinning sites!

The Comic Skin Network (CSN) is a community of websites dedicated to making comic or scifi themed skins for a variety of games.  The member websites are run by individual skinners and 3D modellers. We are always looking for new members and new games to skin for.  Come visit us and enjoy the downloads and partake in our lively message board communities.

March 2002 marks the 2 year anniversary of the CSN and we're hoping to keep growing for years to come.

Thanks to the guys at the greatest gaming magazine ever for the chance to share these skins with all of you!  PC Gamer rules!

So cool to see the skinning community go mainstream and to be reminded of how FF skinning was largely built off the back of superhero mods for The Sims. If anyone has screenshots from those days I'd love to see them.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2021, 06:37:57 PM by Ewzzy »

Offline BentonGrey

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2021, 02:38:58 PM »
Wow, another neat find, Ewzzy! 

I remember the Coconut Monkey!  That was in the hey-day of my gaming and investment in the genre's news and culture. 
God Bless
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Offline spydermann93

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2021, 04:48:36 PM »
Wow, that's awesome!

They still use Coconut Monkey as far as I remember.

Offline Deaths Jester

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2021, 05:09:57 PM »
You recently saw my research into Irrational Games' cancelled title The Lost. It's just the first of many Freedom Force history subjects I've been diving into. With the 20th anniversary coming up there's a lot of history to dive into.

I'd love to know the story of how community member Darkjared got this gig. What a wild assignment. Let's take a look at what he put together:

DJ's work is recognizable at a glance if you recognize his base skin. The hulking skin's chin really gives it away. Looking at these today, obviously the biggest question is "what the heck is with that... thing?" Turns out that's the "Coconut Monkey" a very 2000s lol-random mascot of PC Gamer's that they'd include as an easter egg on the demo disc wherever they could.

Actually that isn't my base skin that was Valander's base skin that I used off and on, I think.  Though you are right, some of these look like they were done using some of my work....didn't know that and I even have the original disc too and there is no mention of me in the readmes...very interesting...oh well..was back in the days before we really started talkign about kittbashing and such...
Avatar picture originally a Brom painting entitled Marionette.

Offline Ewzzy

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2021, 07:21:57 PM »
Actually that isn't my base skin that was Valander's base skin that I used off and on, I think.  Though you are right, some of these look like they were done using some of my work....didn't know that and I even have the original disc too and there is no mention of me in the readmes...very interesting...oh well..was back in the days before we really started talkign about kittbashing and such...

Ah sorry I think this is my fault for abbreviating DarkJared to DJ. Here's the PC Gamer skin compared to their base skin. It's the same texture.

Offline Deaths Jester

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2021, 07:24:58 PM »
Actually that isn't my base skin that was Valander's base skin that I used off and on, I think.  Though you are right, some of these look like they were done using some of my work....didn't know that and I even have the original disc too and there is no mention of me in the readmes...very interesting...oh well..was back in the days before we really started talkign about kittbashing and such...

Ah sorry I think this is my fault for abbreviating DarkJared to DJ. Here's the PC Gamer skin compared to their base skin. It's the same texture.


Ah...okay...yeah, now that I see it closer you are right.  That is def DarkJared's base skin....was confused for sure cause I remember when those came out and was skinning back then so..yeah...<shrugs>...
Avatar picture originally a Brom painting entitled Marionette.

Offline Tomato

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2021, 01:46:42 AM »
Dark Jared had some ties to a few different magazines back in the day. I recall finding the Skindex through Wizard magazine (which also had some character creator suggestions for a few wrestling games) and I would imagine it wasn't that great a leap that either someone at PC Gaming or Irrational sought him out for the same reason.

Offline Tomato

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2021, 02:29:09 AM »
Probably, but to be fair, so did Alex FF and a few others as well. Skindex did get hit a bit harder IIRC, but I feel like that was probably a combination of a few things... a sims community that still often has a lot of models as pay to use and Skindex getting caught up in that early net of Cease and Desists (I recall a LOT of sims sites being hit around that time), it's prevalence in both the sims AND early FF community via Wizard and other magazines, and the at-the-time production of several Marvel games that were, in effect, competing with Freedom Force and relying on the brand for those games to stand out (X-men Legends came out the year before FFv3R, and was likely well into production during the time a lot of the C&Ds started hitting).


Offline Deaths Jester

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2021, 02:57:47 AM »
Sorry I removed the post the earned your response, 'mato, thus confusing folks looking uc this. For those interested, I mentioned that the extra attention that skindex garnered via the magazines might have also brought the cease and desist order on them but that is unknown. And thus 'matos response.
Avatar picture originally a Brom painting entitled Marionette.

Offline Ewzzy

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2021, 04:31:03 AM »
Back again with more FF history! I've been digging around IGN and GameSpot for pre-release screenshots. I've dumped all I've found in this Imgur gallery so you can take a look: https://imgur.com/gallery/7mmz6vi

Let's start with a bit of tech. Some screenshots show a dynamic shadow system that FF1 never had.

FFVT3R has a dynamic shadow system but this seems to use FX as light sources in a way that doesn't seem to.

The real star of the show is how different some of the characters look.

El Diablo's face is so different that it's shocking. His costume also shows off his musculature in a typical way that is very un-diablo. If you look close you can see these screens are from different builds of the game with slightly different textures and UI.

That is very true of Man-Bot. There are at least 3 proto-builds here with slight skin changes.

Most notable is the red chest piece, much heavier use of black lines, black backpack, and lower saturation. The final Man-Bot is much much bluer.

There's actually a lot of early Man-Bot art with the red chest piece and even a render that looks still yet more different than these screens.

It clearly took a long time to nail down his look.

There are a lot less images of Law, Order, and Bullet but they're worth taking a look at.

Order looks completely different with his baby blue toga. Law is mostly the same but some builds she doesn't have her sword yet. Bullet's costume is bluer and covers more skin. The Ant shows up briefly but looks basically the same as final.

I couldn't resist putting some time in and recreating the prototype skins for El Diablo and Man-Bot.

I'm combining the looks from several old builds of the game and doing a fair amount of speculation. I can also see how the meshes changed that I couldn't account for. Think of these as reinterpretations.

Download Proto El Diablo

Download Proto Man Bot

Join me next time as I take a look at early Mentor and some tiny tiny character art.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2021, 06:34:10 PM by Ewzzy »

Offline Panther_Gunn

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2021, 05:11:53 AM »
I kinda like that look for Manbot.  It almost looks like an early Silver or Gold age version, like a Mk I.

I wonder if that shadow system got dumped from FF1 because it was too much of a drag on the resources.  It looks cool, but playability is always more important.
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Offline BentonGrey

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2021, 05:24:11 PM »
I've seen these early shots and always thought they were really fascinating glimpses of what might have been and such.  Their map textures are particularly interesting. 
God Bless
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Offline Nyte Dragon

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2021, 09:30:01 PM »
Just a little blast from the past.



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« Last Edit: July 11, 2021, 09:32:38 PM by Nyte Dragon »
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Offline Epimethee

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2021, 10:32:17 PM »
Really enjoying this, Ewzzy – and cool proto skins to boot!
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Offline Panther_Gunn

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2021, 05:37:05 AM »
Just a little blast from the past.

Geeze, our buddy Vlad was around even back then?  Not sure I know how to react to that.
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Offline Ewzzy

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2021, 12:29:51 AM »
Glad to hear people are enjoying these dives. That screenshot of the old Community Center really brings me back. Here's what I've got cooking today: pre-release wallpapers!


Imgur Gallery

These should all be pretty familiar since they hung out on the FF site for years after the game was released. Lots of big and little changes from these and release.

  • The Ant is so final that the same drawing appears as a menu background in-game.
  • Look close and there are two Bullets. The individual wallpaper has his stars and stripes trim but the group shot shows the flat blue we saw in the pre-release screenshots.
  • Speaking of those screenshots, Order has his singlet toga and thigh high boots.
  • Minuteman is nearly complete except his mask going down to his neck.
  • Eve is seemingly complete but a lot of concept art for her makes her seem more naked than her actual model.
  • El Diablo is very different from his final version including gloves and a totally different mask that aren't even in his earliest pre-release screenshots.
  • Alchemiss has a loincloth instead of a skirt and other changes. This same drawing would be altered and reused to better match her final costume.
  • Man-Bot much matches his pre-release screenshots and subsequently the proto skin I made to match.
  • Most notoriously Mentor is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

He's hopeful! His noggin is less enlarged. Black and blue with silver highlights and no cape. A hint of chest hair? Who is this mysterious man? Honestly I have no idea, but once again I was tempted to make a skin to match.


Download Proto Mentor

Obviously I'm constrained by using the same mesh as the original model. I doubt I'm the first to make a skin of this oddball and I want to believe someone even made a mesh to match.

This isn't the end of our tour today. Existing today only on a preview page for the Mac version of Freedom Force (a topic for a future post) is even more character art from this batch. Teeny tiny art.


Much of this the same but Man-O-War and Sea Urchin are very different designs. It's hard to make out but Man-O-War is much more royal with lots of gold armor and bare feet for swimming. Sea Urchin is seemingly older with a one-piece swimsuit instead of her skirt. She's got blonde hair and ankle coverings instead of boots and no pit winges. The differences are subtle but she's much closer to Namora/Namorita in this design.

If anyone has any leads on higher res images of these two please send them my way.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2021, 06:28:39 PM by Ewzzy »

Offline BentonGrey

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2021, 03:16:08 AM »
More fascinating stuff, Ewzzy!  Disco Mentor is certainly interesting.  I quite like what I can see of the proto Man o' War!  That looks pretty cool.  I'm also really curious about the map and what it might have been part of.
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Offline Panther_Gunn

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2021, 05:50:01 AM »
I'm also really curious about the map and what it might have been part of.

I feel like it might have shown up on a Freedom Fortress texture, but I'm not positive.  I can't think of anywhere else it might have been.
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Offline UnkoMan

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #18 on: July 13, 2021, 05:25:30 PM »
Oh boy, great stuff. Love that Proto-Mentor skin. He looks a bit leather daddy.

Offline BentonGrey

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #19 on: July 13, 2021, 07:11:31 PM »
Oh boy, great stuff. Love that Proto-Mentor skin. He looks a bit leather daddy.

Haha, I debated between "Disco Mentor" and "Leather-Daddy Mentor."
God Bless
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Offline SuperPoweredYank

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #20 on: July 13, 2021, 08:21:02 PM »
Great thread Ewzzy!

Something I've noticed while looking at old screenshots: The building collapsing physics in the early versions of the game seems more complex.

Note how the structure seems to bend realistically as it collapses instead of breaking into chunks which go straight down like in the final game.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2021, 08:25:52 PM by SuperPoweredYank »

Offline BentonGrey

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #21 on: July 13, 2021, 08:28:31 PM »
Yeah, I had noticed that too, and it looks like he's actually blowing a chunk out of it there too.
God Bless
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Offline detourne_me

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #22 on: July 15, 2021, 02:51:39 PM »
Ewzzy, All this research and content preservation you've been doing has been great. The fact that you are creating new, hi-res textures to go along with what you've found is even better!

Offline Ewzzy

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #23 on: July 15, 2021, 07:04:53 PM »
Thank you! I'm glad people are enjoying these.

RE: Destruction I have to wonder if some of these screenshots are target renders rather than in-engine. I'm going to investigate other Netimmerse engien games of the era to see if they had features near that level.

Today's batch of history comes in form of more demo disc content. I've been sifting through the internet archive to see how bits of content trickled out before and after release. Now for a chronological tour!

Full resolution screenshots here and here.

PC Gamer UK December 2001 - Gallery

A compilation of 8 screenshots. 3 of them have El Diablo saying "Hot stuff comin' through!" Check out the gallery here.

Computer Gaming World - December 2001 - Minuteman Origin Movie

It's that same old low res mov file. Weirdly the 256x192px resolution is perfect for the original Nintendo DS screen.

PC Gamer UK February 2002 - Character Tool

Disc 1 has the Character Tool. I'd love to know more about the pre-release modding scene. It's incredible that the character tool was out before the game was.

PC Gamer UK February 2002 - Gallery

Disc 2 has another gallery. Some repeats. Some more of those shadows that didn't make it into the final game. Check out the gallery here.


Computer Gaming World - March 2002 - Origin Movie

The same month FF was released CGW published the low res origin video for The Ant.

Computer Gaming World - June 2002 - Demo

An odd thing about comparing file dates on the disc and the magazine cover date, the files say March but the Cover is June. Lots and lots of lead time in the print world.

PC Gamer June 2002 - Demo


As I shared in a previous post, this PC Gamer demo disc featured the demo and custom PCG themed skins.

PC Gamer UK June 2002 - Demo

Turns out the UK version of PC Gamer had the demo the same month. No custom skins here.

PC Gamer UK July 2002 - FFEdit

The next month PCG UK redeemed itself by releasing FFEdit on the demo disc. Pretty cool.

PC Gamer UK October 2002 - Patch

The first patch is released.

Computer Gaming World - November 2002 - Fantastic Force

Shocked to see how quickly Fantastic Force was released. A true icon of the modding community. It may get it's own post some day.

Computer Gaming World - November 2002 - Patch

Hard to remember a time before the danger room was part of FF.

That's everything for today. You can see all of these images and more in this Imgur Gallery. All of these discs are on the Internet Archive. I encourage everyone to upload all your FF material to the archive. It's a fantastic safe haven for all sorts of material.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2021, 06:15:14 PM by Ewzzy »

Offline Epimethee

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #24 on: July 16, 2021, 10:24:39 PM »
Yet more interesting finds, Ewzzy, thanks!

I took the liberty – I hope you don’t mind – of uploading re-scaled higher-resolution versions of the wallpapers you posted above, as their 2001-era original size is a bit outdated for today's screens. Mind you, almost no one uses 4:3 ratio screens anymore, iPad excepted.

https://dsc.cloud/ddb7d7/ff-pre-release-wallpapers.zip (Even if the upscaling is far from perfect, obviously, I'm still in awe of of much better it's improved by machine learning.)

P.S.: Morrowind, Civ, Age of Wonders… that 1.1 patch was in fine company.
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Offline BentonGrey

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #25 on: July 16, 2021, 10:45:08 PM »
Yeah, that was a golden age of gaming, no doubt about it.

More great stuff, Ewzzy!  I don't know about everyone else, but I'd certainly be interested in some similar research on the early mods/modding community.  That was all before my time, so I know little about it.
God Bless
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Offline Randomdays

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #26 on: July 16, 2021, 11:19:55 PM »
Ewzzy, and everyone, thanks for this. I'm really enjoying what's been done so far. I started out doing a few things when the game came out, but then let it sit for a few years till I got back into it with  some major OCD.

Benton, When I was doing a lot of looking for old skins recently, I found a bunch of things from the early days using the wayback; I'm putting a few below, but you can also see some changes to what went on back then by changing the dates on the wayback bar up top, or clicking on some of the links in the sidebars to go to the forums or other areas. There's forums, skins for other games like Unreal Tournament , including some of the sims stuff that got people in trouble back then, screen savers, mods, voice packs, posters, and more. A lot of the links are dead, but there's still a surprising amount of them that still work.

The original Skindex;

https://web.archive.org/web/20011006065807/http://www.skindex.net/ff/ffmain.htm

The Skindex on CSN;

https://web.archive.org/web/20021217001352/http://www.freedomforcecenter.com/skindex/

The Comic Skin Network

https://web.archive.org/web/20021123181751/http://www.comicskins.com/








Offline daglob

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #27 on: July 17, 2021, 12:40:54 AM »
I've got all the Sims stuff that I could get; I believe I announced that I had it, but never did anything with it. I've got a bunch of Unreal Tournament stuff, too. I did post he Canadian Conversion program.

Offline Ewzzy

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #28 on: July 17, 2021, 03:26:44 PM »
Daglob, I'd love to take a look at all of that.
Randomdays, I need to do some reading there. Not much in the way of files or images but might be nice to see what names come up.
Epimethee, great sharp lines there. What algorithm are you using?

I've got a classic entry today: The Freedom Force Pre-Order Bonus Disc!


Download the disc ISO from the Internet Archive here.

Bonus characters? How does that work? Let's run FFBonus.exe and find out.

Wait? It's just Iron-Ox, Blackbird, and Supercollider? Aren't they already in the game?

Let's hit "Install Characters" and see what happens.

Wow, that was extremely quick. Turns out all it does is find your init.py and add a single line.


If you're new to the game, you can be forgiven for not recognizing this. The line enabling the characters is pre-included in the GOG release. (not sure about Steam) The workaround of adding this line was extremely well known online back in the day. To the point where I didn't realize there was an official path at all.

So is there anything else on this disc? Now's a great time to show off Internet Archive's ability to browse inside ISO files. https://ia801503.us.archive.org/view_archive.php?archive=/4/items/freedom-force-bonus-cd/Freedom%20Force%20Bonus%20CD.ISO

As you can see in the menu above, the disc contains the Character Tool. In that folder is also the meshes and skins for the various basic custom heroes as well as Blackbird, Iron-OX, and Supercollider. They're the exact same files that come with the final game install. Pretty useless if this was released alongside the game. Anybody remember if it was delivered before release? The file dates are at most a month before the final game coming out.

The browse artwork button opens up a web browser with a mini FF site embedded on the disc. I've cloned it to my own website here:
http://freedomforce.ewzzy.com/bonuscd/FF_BONUS.HTM
Some of the javascript doesn't seem to work, so if you'd like to see the 3D rendered wallpapers here's an Imgur gallery. All of the character concept artwork is in a gallery here.

Pretty fun inclusion I'm sure got some use back in the day is the Web Site Kit. It's got some screenshots, the logo, and even the FF comic text font.

Grab that here:
https://archive.org/download/freedom-force-bonus-cd/Freedom%20Force%20Bonus%20CD.ISO/WEB_SITE_KIT%2FART%2FFONT%2FGNATFONT.TTF
Quote
GNAFONT created by and redistributed courtesy of Kaare Andrews (www.kaareandrews.com).

Among the concept art (which I will go way way deeper into another time) are highlights like Supercollider's retractable wheels:

A Twiggy version of the Civilian Female:

Hints that the Ice Queens might have been a singular character named Mrs Frost (fanny pack included):


Please, take a look through yourselves and see what highlights you find. I'm working on some retro magazine content now. You won't believe some of what's coming.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2021, 06:22:29 PM by Ewzzy »

Offline BentonGrey

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Re: Ewzzy's FF History
« Reply #29 on: July 17, 2021, 04:13:21 PM »
Lots more neat stuff!  I love Supercollider's wheels, like the old Silver Iron Man roller skates!  Ha, how strange!  Very interesting that the Ice Queens may have been a unique character, complete with fanny pack, no less!

:EDIT: Browsing through the content on your site, a couple of things jump out at me.  First, a brown-robed Darkman, indicating that there might have been a third minion type in that batch at one stage.  Second, and a bit more intriguing to the 10-year-old dinosaur nut inside me, is pictures of dinos, labelled 'Dinosaur set" 1 and 2.  The second one was pteranodons (my favorites!).  I know we got flying dinos as set dressing, but I wonder if they would have featured as foes at one stage.

Also, Ewzzy, I don't know if you mean for those pictures on your site to be clickable and expandable, but clicking does nothing at the moment.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2021, 04:17:58 PM by BentonGrey »
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